Zionist groups attack San Francisco Unified School District for working with pro-Palestine group
In May 2015, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) unanimously voted to mandate instruction in Arabic and Vietnamese for students who speak the languages at home.
The program, set to begin in 2017, will place San Francisco alongside Dearborn, Michigan, and New York City, where similar Arabic-instruction programs have been implemented.
The decision came with backlash though. Anti-Palestinian groups have accused the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), a campaign leader for expanding Arabic instruction, of being unfit to assist with program development in SF public schools. This is because AROC unapologetically expresses solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation, which pro-Israel groups refer to as a political bias.
In speaking with Al Jazeera America, AROC’s Executive Director, Lara Kiswani, stated the organization is “inherently anti-Zionist” as it is an anti-racist group.
Despite pressure from the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Community Relations Council, and other pro-Israel groups, the SFUSD school board maintained that naming AROC in the resolution was not meant to imply a political stance. Rather, AROC was chosen because of their connection with SFUSD families and role in providing resources and support for language development.
Several Jewish organizations stepped up in support of AROC, including the Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Queers Undermining Israeli Apartheid (QUIT). A letter produced in support of AROC, co-signed by several Jewish groups, reveals the large divide between Zionist and non-Zionist Jewish Americans.
The anti-Palestine backlash against AROC and Arabic instruction initiative in San Francisco schools is a part of the continuity of anti-BDS moves towards those working to elevate the Palestinian struggle. Similar events include Sheldon Andelson’s anti-BDS summit in June 2015 and Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s $25 million pledge to combat BDS.
From speaking with Deeg Gold from QUIT, Al Jazeera America noted that, “even though the SFUSD resolution makes no mention of BDS in its push for Arab cultural involvement in schools, the fact that AROC has supported BDS makes them a target.”
Despite the school board resuming conversations with AROC in August on the new language classes, more backlash is expected.